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Cell. 1993 Jan 29;72(2):171-82.

Expression of Xist during mouse development suggests a role in the initiation of X chromosome inactivation.

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Section of Comparative Biology, Medical Research Council Clinical Research Centre, Harrow, England.


The mouse Xist gene maps to the X inactivation center (Xic) region and is expressed exclusively from the inactive X chromosome. It is thus a candidate gene for the Xic. We show that the onset of Xist expression in mouse development precedes X chromosome inactivation and may therefore be a cause rather than merely a consequence of X inactivation. The earliest Xist expression in morulae and blastocysts is imprinted, resulting in specific expression of the paternal Xist allele. Imprinted Xist expression may thus be the cause of nonrandom inactivation of the paternal X in trophectoderm. Strong Xce alleles can act to reduce the effect of imprinted Xist expression in the trophectoderm. The imprint on Xist expression is lost shortly before gastrulation when random X inactivation occurs. Our data support a direct role for Xist in the initiation of X inactivation.

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